Aamir is very important to us at Excel Entertainment because we started our company’s journey with him with the film Dil Chahta Hai. We often joke about how Aamir Khan is the foundation stone of Excel Entertainment! In fact, I can’t think of anyone better to have kick-started our first film with.
Aamir has always worked with new filmmakers and we were really fortunate that he agreed to do our film because not only did Dil Chahta Hai have a new director (Farhan Akhtar) but also a new producer in me. He is probably one star who has worked with the maximum number of new directors in his career, but most of those films did have a security blanket in the form of an established producer. For our film, the risks were higher because it was a first of many sorts, whether casting, script or the style in which the film was made.
I don’t have a filmy background and I did not attend film school; yet he took the plunge with my first film. Even Farhan had never worked as a full-fledged assistant director on any film. So it was a chance he took with us because he believed in the script.
I spent almost a year with him before we went on the floors for Dil Chahta Hai and Aamir made sure I learnt the nuances of filmmaking before we started shooting. I tagged along with him while he was shooting for Mann and later went with him to Bhuj during Lagaan, to get a hands-on approach to production.
He understood that I was not the ‘usual’ type of producer, who would just pump money into a film and stay in the background. He groomed me to become a creative producer, like he himself is. He always listens to your viewpoint even if you are new and he treats everyone equally. Both Farhan and I enjoy working with him because we are all a bunch of opinionated people.
The fact that he turned producer with Lagaan also helped us while we were making Dil Chahta Hai because he told us to try making the film in sync sound, which he had used in Lagaan. We also owe the concept of using one costume designer for the entire film, to him.
Our film released in 2001 and before that, most films were shot across a very long schedule. People would shoot one schedule for two months and then send that into edit before they started shooting the rest of the film. Aamir was the one who encouraged us to shoot a film in one single schedule. So with Dil Chahta Hai, we started shooting the film on August 1 and wrapped the film on December 25, across Mumbai, London and Goa.
He is one actor who believes in detailed discussions about his scripts before he signs a film. The fact that he has had such a strong career and longevity as an actor is because he stands by the ideology that the script is supreme and nothing rises above the script. That is why his films are always on the right track and are sure-shot successes. There is a certain assurance that Aamir’s films bring to a producer as well as the audience. Since he lays so much emphasis on the script and the way it is filmed, you know it will be a quality film, which will guarantee entertainment in its purest form.
As an actor, he always stands by your film, no matter what. He is always available to you, very accessible and prepared to support you even in your darkest hour. He is always reachable and someone you can bank on for any kind of solution. He doesn’t restrict himself to the realm of acting alone. If you seek his help on any aspect of filmmaking, he will back you. I have even called him in the wee hours of the morning sometimes and he has answered my phone. I mean, what more could you ask for from an actor?
Aamir is a team player and believes strongly that filmmaking is a collaborative process and not a one-man show. He always stands by his team. It was a great opportunity for us to work with him in Dil Chahta Hai and almost 11 years later in Talaash.
I am grateful that he is such a great actor and yet he saw that hunger in us and backed us to the best of his ability. It is an inspiration to see that he still wants to achieve so much despite having spent so many years in the industry. As a person, Aamir is very grounded in spite of having grown so much in stature. That is very humbling. At the end of the day, his belief that there is nothing greater than the film is his greatest strength.
We have always had a great time working with him. We wish him a very happy golden jubilee birthday and we hope we get to work with him many more times for the next 50 years!